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Haunted America: The Ghosts of Gettysburg

Gettysburg is the site of the largest, costliest and deadliest battle of the Civil War, with more than 50,000 estimated casualties.
Posted at 1:45 PM, Oct 28, 2021

Amid the grass and monuments, the fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, tell more than the stories printed on plaques and mile markers. For many, the sunlight washes away the pain felt by the memories of the dead.

The people of Gettysburg say they still feel the spirits of lives lost during the three-day battle that would define American history. 

"It was the bloodiest single battle of the American Civil War," Gettysburg historian Timothy Smith said.

Gettysburg is the site of the largest, costliest and deadliest battle of the Civil War. With more than 50,000 estimated casualties, the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 marked the turning point of the war. It is on these hallowed grounds that many people believe the souls of Union and Confederate soldiers still roam. 

Tom Demko said he lives alongside spirits of the dead. 

"It was a little bit after 10 p.m., and we went through a fog bank, and there were a least a dozen Union soldiers marching with their muskets," Demko said. "All with blank expressions on their face." 

Demko lives in the apartment above of what used to be the Gettysburg Orphanage, a building that locals say is active with paranormal activity. 

The orphanage was originally a private home. During the Battle of Gettysburg, it was converted into a hospital for the wounded soldiers with a cellar filled with the dying and the dead. And the belief among paranormal investigators is that their souls are stuck here, roaming around because they never found closure and never moved on. 

"One particular medium was actually speaking with a soldier who was down here, and she was trying to help him go to the light, but he couldn't move on or chose not to move on," Lang said.

After the Battle of Gettysburg, the facility was turned into an orphanage to house the children who lost their parents in the battle. 

The orphanage took a frightening turn when Rosa J. Carmichael took charge as the headmistress. It is believed Carmichael tortured and chained kids in a dungeon she secretly created in the cellar. Demko, who also studies the spectral, said he's had contact with the spirits of some of the children. 

"I've heard from children who have told me they were tortured by her," Demko said.

Supernatural believers think her monstrous doings in life kept her evil spirit locked up in the building.

"I've had conversations with her through EVP," Demko said. 

Electronic voice phenomena are sounds on electronic recordings that some believe to be spirits' voices.

"And when I first moved here, she was very kind and welcoming, but then when I questioned her about some of the activity that's happened in that building, you could tell that she really wasn't happy with me after that," Demko said.

Paranormal investigator Niki Saunders says one of the most haunted buildings in Gettysburg is the Farnsworth House Inn. Saunders claims the house is plagued by a nonhuman entity. 

The inn is one of 400 buildings that were in town at the time of the battle. Local historian Timothy Smith said families took shelter in the house cellar as bullets flew over their heads.

Just up the hill from the Farnsworth House, there's a small cottage, now called the Jennie Wade house. It's a shrine to Mary Virginia "Jennie" Wade, the only civilian to be killed in the Battle of Gettysburg. 

Jennie, who was 20 years old at the time of the battle, was in the house the morning of July 3, 1863, when her life came to a tragic end before her mother's eyes. When that bullet came through the doors, it traveled right across Jennie's heart, killing her instantly. 

Wade was said to be engaged to Cpl. Johnston "Jack" Skelly. News of her death never reached him. He died in captivity a week after Wade's death. Visitors claim to hear strange movements, voices and moaning in the house. 

It's said Wade still haunts Gettysburg because her body was relocated from its original burial site once a formal battle cemetery was built. Wade's final resting place is next to Skelly. Some speculate that moving her grave disturbed her spirit. 

History books will continue to tell about the bloodbath of Gettysburg, and the town's past will live on through its haunted places.